July 1, 2018

L.A. to Toronto Roadtrip Notes: Day 11 and 12, Chicago

In penetrating the Windy City, we fight through an hour or so of traffic and arrive at our "urban holiday loft" in the trendy Bucktown neighbourhood.

We park, leave our big backpacks in our room, and head out on foot for 4-5 miles in the dusk.

Ah, right away, metal beams and rivets, bitten by winter, and rusting. Graffiti. Old water towers. Cobwebs of overhead wires. Socialist posters impolitely saying what Trump really is and not a few people who are unafraid to tell us on the street. This is all very un-Californian.



The next day we're up early and at it again, though now we buy day passes for the subway. Along the way we chat with four strangers, none of them patriots or uninteresting, because that's the beauty of public transit and why conservatives revile it, no?

We get off in "the loop," amidst the financial buildings, and our first sight is a Kandinsky mosaic that wraps around four giant walls, with an army of smokers smoking their breakfasts out front of it, not one vaping, either.

We visit the building of the old central library, the turn-of-the-century kind with handcrafted masonry, stained-glassed ceilings, and inscriptions throughout that pay homage to literature—the sort that will never be built again, since today's robber barons are mentally bankrupt, and illiterate.

We take in an entire room dedicated permanently to Keith Haring and his street art in Chicago, as well as a temporary exhibit by Alexis Rockman on the state of the Great Lakes.

"Cascade," oil and alkyd on panel, 72" x 144"
It's my first time seeing Rockman and my immediate thought is, yup, this is the correct way to do nature/Americana/Canadiana today.


From here we head to the mirror-blob sculpture, which doesn't do much for me but prompt me to take a selfie and think I'm wonderful. We then sit to watch the Chicago philharmonic rehearse outdoors in the concert hall built by that overrated starchitect, Frank Gehry.

Lunch in Chinatown, and more unplanned chitchat along the way and in the restaurant, with a young woman who has just moved to Chicago from Nashville, "where there are not so many Chinese but lots of cowboys."

For the rest of the day, we pilgrimage to the current central library, which is as spectacular as the old one, not Gehry, not cold and academic, at all.


We stare at the exposed overhead subway lines for at least an hour, plugging our ears each time a train passes.



Finally, we visit the site of the Haymarket riot, which led to the hanging of several socialists and anarchists because an unknown source detonated a bomb and killed seven policemen, back in 1886.


By the way, it's due to Haymarket and subsequent struggles connected to it that May Day exists (at least outside of North America) and for a while, more than today's privileged few anyhow, had an eight-hour workday.

I gotta say, I'm disgruntled to find simply a sculpture and tiny plaques from unions around the world affixed to it, and the supposed long-term plans for a "Labor Park" in evidence nowhere, but maybe not surprised. The location is banal and difficult to find, too.

Tomorrow, central Michigan for a last night of camping and then Ontario, land of confused voters who for some reason want more America.

No comments:

Post a Comment